4 Your Eyez, 4 Our Earz
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Upon J. Cole’s album drop, many listeners were expecting a bass-blasting, hard beat album similar to that of 2014 Forest Hills Drive. Cole decided to mix things up in his newest album, 4 Your Eyez Only, and dove deeper into the realities he and others experienced.
After all the fame 2014 Forest Hills Drive brought Cole, it would be understandable if his songs transitioned from life in the hood to life as a hip-hop elite. Instead of following that stereotypical path many rappers take, Cole stayed grounded to his roots and reflected on the realities black men in America experience.
Throughout the album, it is apparent that a story is being told not only from Cole’s perspective, but that of a friend. Listeners are first introduced to James McMillan Jr. on “Change”, when Cole explains that he turned the news on and saw his 22 year old friend’s face frozen across the television. Distant crying is heard while a reenactment of a funeral by Cole takes place later in the song.
On “4 Your Eyez Only”, the eight minute long song switches between Cole and presumably James talking to Nina, James’s daughter. The song starts from the perspective of James, who talks about selling drugs to get money and raise his daughter. It also highlights how difficult life is after getting a felony and how once you’re in the system it’s challenging to break out of it. “Took me two felonies to see the trap this crooked system set for me.” The track then transitions to Cole rapping about how James is sorry if his daughter is hearing the song because that means James is dead. “You probably grown now so this song will hit you if you’re hearing this, unfortunately means that I’m no longer with you in the physical.” “I’m writing this because me and the devil had a dance, now I see death around the corner, apologizing in advance.”
While Cole hasn’t spoken out about the meaning of the album yet, it’s clear that he is attempting to be a voice for those who deal with similar problems. “I dedicate these words to you and all the other children affected by the mass incarceration in this nation that sent your pops to prison when he needed education.”
Even though 4 Your Eyez Only wasn’t full of bass-boosted bangers like that of 2014 Forest Hills Drive, Cole managed to share a powerful story that was expressed through more slow driven, lyrically emphasized tracks.